The phrase “straight to VHS” (later replaced with “straight to DVD”) is synonymous with low-budget movies or fairly poor Disney sequels that didn’t deserve a cinematic release… So when movies are frequently going “straight to Netflix” you’d be forgiven for assuming it’s just another natural progression of “straight current-media” – but is it?
While it’s true that there are many Netflix Originals that are bypassing the cinema and coming straight to Netflix it doesn’t mean they are poor quality or budget titles. While it’s true that some get slated by critics it doesn’t mean they’re not good films – Will Smith’s “Bright” was panned by critics yet still scores highly with audiences. However, films like “Mudbound” and “Okja”, while gaining massive amounts of praise, still seem to cause controversy with the movie industry simply because they are daring to be different.
Traditionally a movie would be released in cinemas and then after some time it would get a home release followed by paid-TV release (Sky Movies etc) and then eventually, often years later, aired on terrestrial TV for all. Low-budget movies would sometimes skip the cinematic release and go straight to DVD. Whereas Netflix wanted simultaneous cinematic and Netflix releases but cinemas we reluctant to do this – why should they pay to have a film showing that people can watch at home ‘for free’ anyway? So instead they now come straight to Netflix and skip the traditional process altogether – simply because the traditional parties (cinemas) didn’t want to change.
Occasionally a Netflix Original will get a limited theatrical release such as “Mudbound” and “Okja”, which were mentioned earlier. The reason they were released in cinemas was so they can be considered for Academy Awards, i.e. The Oscars. The traditional way the awards are run requires a cinematic release so as to remove any “TV Movies” from the awards. Many traditional movie buffs aren’t happy with this though – it’s a workaround in order to qualify for an award. If you ask me, it just sounds like they’re having a strop because someone new is trying to join their exclusive little club…
The latest big name to voice his opinion against Netflix is none other than Steven Spielberg. In a recent interview with UK TV channel ITV, while promoting his upcoming “Ready Player One”, he had a bit of a pop at Netflix. You can see the clip below but in a nutshell he says that any film maker that commits to the small screen (i.e. Netflix, Amazon etc) is just “a TV movie” and that Netflix is “a clear and present danger to film-goers”. I’d like to ask why? Just because a film is watched on a small screen does not mean it can’t still be a good film. In fact, if a film requires a large screen to be good then I’d have to ask whether it is simply the visual effects that make it good rather than the story itself? To me, story and acting ability is much more important than visual effects. Good story and good acting is obvious whatever size screen you watch it on. Why should a film’s merits be based on whether or not it’s shown on a large screen?
Cinemas and Hollywood didn’t want to change their traditions and simultaneously release movies theatrically and on streaming media. They were given that option by the likes of Netflix and now Netflix are doing it their own way. Admittedly, they may not always get it right (“The Cloverfield Paradox”) but at least they’re trying and giving film-makers a chance where bigger studios/names wouldn’t release the films. To paraphrase the comedian Brendon Burns: “Afterall, what are traditions? They’re just things your grandparents did that everyone else copies.” There’s no real, actual reason why movies should have to be shown in cinemas…
What do you think? Do you agree with Spielberg that Netflix Originals are “just TV movies” or are they much more than that? And do you really need a big screen to watch a good movie?